April 23, 2015

Book Review : Neuromarketing in Action

"Neuromarketing in Action" by Patrick M.Georges, Anne-Sophie Bayle-Tourtoulou and Michel Badoc.

Of Purple Cows and Grey Matter

When was the last time you missed reading the fineprint in an advertisement or a document and it later came to haunt you. The smalltext or fineprint specifically targets the information processing rule in the brain that calls out 'The smaller it is, the more insignificant it is' and hence you gloss over them. Do you realize that men with sports cars attract women because behavioral scientists believe that you can only invest in unnecessary objects if you are healthy and strong, after you have met your required needs?

What happens when Oliver Sacks meets Seth Godin? Cross-disciplinary research is in vogue these days, and the field of neuro-marketing perfectly fits into this space. The authors, Patrick M.Georges, Anne-Sophie Bayle-Tourtoulou and Michel Badoc, are Professors at HEC (Paris) and teach marketing. The much needed neuroscience to this mix is brought by Patrick who was the head of neurosurgery earlier. The book details many recipes for the marketing initiatives to be successful both internally (your boss and inside the organization) and externally (end customers).

The different aspects of neuromarketing are presented to us in digestible chunks across different chapters. The authors talk start with the foundational series on marketing, neuroscience, and then juxtapose neuromarketing and slowly build upon it to explain different facets of this subliminal marketing that they aptly highlight as 'talking and selling to the brain'.

When your sub-conscious is rekindled by an external stimuli to make you choose a product, would you question the ethicality of the process? The tenet of 'The brain must confuse myth and reality' to establish the product placement in the customer's memory is highly intriguing. So, do we always attach electrodes to the heads of our customers and wait for the regions of the brain to be lit up to take a call on our marketing schemes? All this talk of the rational intelligence and sensory marketing confuses whether we are helping the customer make the right decision or are we trying to help just sell our products across.

The end chapters talk on value marketing, permission, brand and interactive marketing. Value Marketing aims at surprising customers by innovative strategies and differentiated products while permission marketing is like a bait wherein the communication happens only after taking the customer’s consent and taking an active interest in their interests.

The authors have done a fabulous job of detailing many neuromarketing recipes but the lack of story-telling is visible. The examples spread only across a few lines in some of the scenarios do not bring the much needed depth to the subject at hand and gives a text-book feel to the treatise. Nevertheless, the book is an occupying reading into this fascinating subject to be followed-up by more intriguing research on buying behaviours, decision sciences and neurobranding.

April 21, 2015

The Pursuit of Truth

Snippets from "The Pursuit of Truth" by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan .....

In the lectures on Hindu View of Life, I present Hinduism as a progressive historical movement still in the making. Its adherents are not custodians of a deposit, but runners carrying a lighted torch. The weaknesses of the Hindu faith which have drawn the institution into disgrace and are today blocking the way for social advance are due to a confusion between Tradition and Truth. We must preserve the spirit of Truth which will guide us all into truth. God does not say, "I am Tradition", but He says, "I am Truth". Truth is greater than its greatest teachers. We must realize that the history of the race is strewn with customs and institutions which were invaluable at first and deadly afterwards. Gross abuses which still survive require to be cut off with an unspairing hand.

To surrender our vanity and love of ourselves and expose the naked ribs of reality may mean anguish and sacrifice but it is worth it. Truth, according to Mahabhatrata, is penance and sacrifice of high order. It says "Truth is always natural with the good. Truth is eternal duty. One should reverentially bow unto truth. Truth is the highest refuge. Truth is duty, truth is penance, truth is yoga. Truth is the eternal Brahman. Truth is said to be -- sacrifice of a high order. Everything rests on Truth". Truth and reality, not falsehood and semblance, are the foundations of lasting friendship, of spiritual life. These friendly revelations have little in common with the exhibitions of spiritual nudism where the sinner speaks exultingly of the depths of sin from which he has emerged to emphasize the heights to which he has attained.

It is by suffering that we understand. The condition of true human life is to suffer pain and endure loneliness. Only those who live outwards lives without being touched inward depths can escape suffering.  Often suffering is not punishment but discipline. When the great blow falls, when we stand in the our darkest hour, shocked, baffled, defeated for the moment, when life has completely lost its savior, when we are tempted to cry "O God, art thou dead?" or with one mightier , "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"; when we hear no response even to such a cry of despair, when utter silence faces us, when the foundations slip away and the world seems to be cracking all about us, we have to bear it all , face the storm, cling to hope and believe in love. All this means suffering and it is through suffering that we learn and grow.

April 19, 2015

Book Review : Value Proposition Design

(This book review was published in the Business World magazine dated 4-May-2015)

The World of Management Books which is inundated with many titles on the Creation, Sustenance and Evolution of Value in enterprises and business got another member in its fraternity. Alexander Osterwalder(author), Yves Pigneur (co-author), Greg Bernarda (co-author), Alan Smith (co-author and art direction) and Trish Papadakos (design) have created the handbook titled ‘Value Proposition Design – How to create Products and services customers want’. The book comes as a perfect sequel to their earlier book titled 'Business Model Generation'. The set of authors call themselves the Strategyzer crew, as they run a website of the namesake.

The authors had introduced the nine Building Blocks, namely Customer segments, value proposition, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, key partnerships, and cost structure, as part of their the Business Generation Model(BGM)Canvas. While the BGM canvas creates value for your business, the Value Proposition (VP) Canvas helps you create value for your customers.

The authors claim VP Canvas is a plug-in tool to the Business Model(BM) Canvas and just like the BM Canvas allows you to visualize Business Models, the VP Canvas allows you to visualize Value Propositions in greater detail. Both canvases perfectly integrate and work hand in hand and this statement is especially valid as Value Propositions and Customer Segments live inside the framework of the BM canvas and expatiate upon it.

The authors approach starts from the VP canvas which sets the stage for further design thinking leading to testing and followed with constant monitoring of the metrics leading to evolution of the value proposition. The Design, Test and Evolve cycle is an iterative and never ending process in such a way that the value proposition is always kept relevant to the customers.By observing and identifying the customer's task and understanding their needs and their pains (problems) and gains(outcomes or benefits), design thinkers need to develop a product or a service that delivers value. And this is one of the best ways of achieving the Product-Market fit. The authors conveniently call this as Pain Relievers and Gain Creators in the Value Map.

Though the colorful diagrams and emoticons make the text engaging, overdose of it though out the book does cause some color-overload and leads to some distractions as some of the emoticons are not exactly relevant. The book is primarily meant for practitioners who can make use extensive use of frameworks and guidelines as part of their design thinking.